Friday, January 30, 2015

Finding Joy at Work

Joy and work

These are two words that for the vast majority of us do not go together. 

Most of us see work simply as that space in between the weekends that serves to provide us medical care, vacations and money to pay the bills. Often, this leads to the Sunday night dread as another new week of despair looms ahead. Is this you?

Let’s face it. Most jobs were never intended to be fun all the time. That is why it is called going to work as opposed to going to fun. 

Nonetheless, there are ways we can make the most of everyday and in the process set ourselves apart from the masses living their work life in despair.

Know your purpose

Why do we work? Is it simply a means to an end so that bills can be paid and away from work fun can be had? That mindset may work for a time but in the long run it leads to drudgery. What if instead we first defined our life purpose and then next applied it to our jobs? My purpose statement is simple:

“To serve God, serve my family and serve those around. I strive to help others have success so that in turn I will experience success”

Your life purpose is critical as it should set the direction for every decision you make about your day and you attitude towards those around you. Feel like you are floundering? You might just need a little direction to move forward. 

Find an attitude mentor

Just about every work group has one these people. You know, the person that no matter what seems to come into work peppy and ready to get busy. These folks jump at the chance to tackle the extra project and take big changes in stride.

This is a person you will want in your inner circle. Ask, “Tell me, what motivates you to be so positive at work?”  I think you might be surprised at the answer and you will find great insight. If open to it, tell this person you are looking for an attitude mentor that will give you nudge from time to time when you may be showing negativity about the workplace.

Show up looking sharp and with a smile

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

I love this famous quote from Martin Luther King as it demonstrates that any job can be filled with satisfaction if you give it your all. Every day I see people working with grim faces while also looking frumpy. I have a secret strategy on my days I know are going to be the most challenging. On these days, I make a point to put on my sweetest shirt and best slacks. I also use a little personal pep talk in the car to slap a smile on that will carry me into the building. 

These little things may sound silly but they do make a huge difference to convince yourself that everything is going to be okay. Oh and on the really over the top days, I make sure to wear a pair of Batman undies that I have had for many years. Sure the day might be stressful but on those days I can have a sly grin on my face knowing that underneath—I am Batman.  

Believe in your future

So your job sucks. That is the time to understand most things in life that suck are temporary. Believe in your abilities, your potential for growth and continue to work with gusto. You might stand out from the crowd by doing so and find yourself up for promotion in the future. If not, then keep making the most of what your have now while also working to find something else that will satisfy you. The key is to not give up hope and to keep growing into the life you were born to have. Give everyday your best and the best will find you. 


Joy and work—I hope you find the best of both. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hello 2015

It feels good to have 2014 behind me and time this week to reflect on the past and the days to come. It has been my practice for many years to use the last week of the year for goal setting and planning.

Life is better with a plan for the future that when examined closely fills you with excitement.

Very few people have powerful goals in writing and even fewer have these detailed in such a way as to serve as leverage for success. To write them down and not immediately execute with action to make them happen is a complete formula for failure.

I know this as fact as each goal I do not meet each year is the result of a poorly executed plan. Time, failure and success are great teachers. I have learned to chunk my plans into categories. They are:
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Finances
  • Health
  • Career
  • Service
  • Misc

My goals within each of these categories are as specific as I can make them. They are not a write down once a year, tuck away and go kind of thing. They are an in my face challenge me every day kind thing.

One other thing I do each year is to chose a theme phase and challenge word. 2015 for example is “the year of the empty nest” and my challenge word is “explore”.

I would love to tell you that every year I master these goals and look back with nothing but complete satisfaction but that is not true. What I can say is that I know without a doubt that in the battle that is the daily grind of life I am far better prepared and excited when I am truly working my plan. It is indeed the foundation most of my success.

Do you have a plan? If not, now is the time to get alone and spend some real time in self-reflection. Write a vision for what you want not just at the end of the year but for tomorrow, next week and so on.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Goodbye 2014

As years go, 2014 is going to go down as one of my most challenging yet. It began in early January as I stepped on the scale and came to the stark realization that my weight was right at the tip of my limit. The preceding months had been difficult with work experiencing a time of layoffs again and my health being impacted by pain in my knees which in turn had led to a complete lack of exercise and a visit to the cellar off my internal motivation.

Looking ahead to the New Year, I knew I had to take control of my life and not let another 12 months go by that I would look into the mirror with regret. I had great optimism knowing the year was set to be full of several wonderful milestones. This was the year we were going to be debt free, experience high adventure in Canada, see the start of Conner’s senior year and begin the transition to being an empty nester. I had no idea at the time that it would bring another layoff at work and a family crisis at a level we had never experienced before.

Taking control of my health again by eating properly was the first step to my comeback. Soon the weight was coming off and amazingly my knees were pain free. By early spring I had experienced a 20 plus pound weight loss and we had met our goal of being 100% debt free.

There was some positive momentum for sure.

Summer was amazing as I traveled to Canada with the Scouts and thanks in part to my renewed health had a terrific time canoeing over 90 miles with my son and some and a great group of Scouts. We had an adventure of a lifetime and every minute was a treasure.

I quickly appreciated the debt free life as out of nowhere there was several thousand dollars in car expenses for unexpected repairs. Frustrating for sure but then again still cheaper than car payments.

Fall approached and so did the start of Conner’s Sr. year. I had been kidding for several months that I would cry at every event since I would know each was a “last” but thankfully that did not happen and instead Michelle and I soaked it all in savoring every moment.

Then the year ended with unexpected stress. Even though we had experienced a layoff as recently as March, the company decided it was needed again with an even bigger cut. I have been through these many times and they are never easy. Thanks to being debt free, knowledge that I would have a generous severance package and knowing all my big father/son trips were now in the past, my stress level for this round was high but not as high as in 2013.

Well that was until the accident. While on a school leadership retreat, my son had an accident falling off a cliff. The news was terrifying as we learned he had shattered one vertebra, fractured another, broken a bone in his foot, broken his jaw and had slightly collapsed a lung. He was very lucky to be alive.

A hospitalized child along with a layoff in progress made for a stress cocktail that was incredibly hard to digest. However, the accident also brought forth an outpouring of love and support from people that was overwhelming and impossible to describe. Family, friends and even strangers shared prayers and kindness that uplifted our family in this time of great need. Our family strength and faith and God also rose to bind us through this situation.

Together we have pressed on and as the year comes to a close I can say we are stronger, closer and more appreciative of this world than ever before. Triumphs help us see the rewards of our faithfulness while tragedies amazingly do the same as well. I am reminded again that you really cannot appreciate one without also experiencing the other.

It looks like 2015 is going to be a watershed year as well. What will it bring? I do not have any idea. What I do know without a doubt is that I will remember that with faith, love, family and friends we will face every challenge. It is going to be a great year for sure.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Time to burn the boats?

Ever seen the movie Hunt for Red October? It is one on my favorite of all time.

Early in the movie Captain Ramious during a gathering of his officers rather casually informs them that he has left a letter with the Soviet high command informing them of their plan to defect to the United States and turnover their high tech submarine. The officers are enraged as they know this will bring the entire Soviet fleet down on them in an effort to destroy the ship and prevent the defection.

Next, Sean Connery in that famous accent of his tells the legend of Cortez and his arrival to the new world. As the story goes, in 1519 Cortez with 500 men and 11 ships traveled to the South America intending to conquer and capture treasure.

Cortez knew this was going to be a great challenge for his men and decided to take action in a way that would ensure complete engagement of his army. He left them with no alternative other than complete success. He ordered them to burn the boats. As Captain Ramious so eloquently frames it in the movie, this left his men “highly motivated”

Too seldom in our lives do we decide as Cortez did to throw away all fear of success and burn the boats. Instead we let our fear and our focus on past failed attempts keep us from fully living life as it should be lived.
 

As we move into a new season of change with another year nearing a close, I want to challenge you to burn the boats and never look back. Just imagine what you will accomplish. 



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hello Senior Year


Well here we go. It is the start of the senior year for Conner and of course I know it will go by fast. It is almost cliché to talk about how time flies but these 17 years have gone by in a blink of an eye.

I am little reflective now thinking back to the parent I have been for him. Regrets? Yes I do have some and can think of many ways I could have been a better father.

I do not regret for a moment the choices we made to live our lives centered around being as good of parents we could and supporting our child with time together. Sure, Michelle and I could have thrown everything at climbing the corporate ladder and chasing stuff. The result may have been a bigger house, fancier vacations and newer cars. But at what price for these things? 

They mean nothing if it leads to a debt of regret for missed opportunities in the short 18 years we got to spend time with this great guy. 

Having lost our father's at young ages, Michelle and I both have fully understood the privilege of being mom and dad.  

I know in my heart that Conner has the foundation he needs to be a success. I am not talking success in career necessarily. Yes he has big dreams in that area. I am talking the area that really counts and that is success as a man of integrity and as a servant of God.


Thank you Conner for bringing so much joy to our lives. Your future is bright no matter where it is going to lead you. 


Monday, May 12, 2014

Get over it: There is no such thing as work/life balance

“I am so sorry. I was off a few days on vacation with my family and did not keep up with e-mail.”

This was the opening comment from a manager I met with recently. Later in the day while in another meeting I asked a manager peer about her recent time off.

Me—“How was your vacation?”

Person—“Good but I did not do any work!” “I am so behind!”

Such is the life of exempt level employees and especially managers. We find ways to leave work but work never leaves us.

Our competitive work culture creates added pressure as time away can mean missed opportunities to contribute to key projects. This can lead to a perception of low value which in turn later can lead you to being the person selected for the next layoff. Not necessarily true but that is what many people think as they ponder time away from work.

Now let’s add to all of this the new hyper connected world we live in. Thanks to phones and tablets we are now connected to work 24x7. There is no excuse at all to miss that important e-mail update, project meeting maker or big data result.

For these reasons and more I have come to the clear conclusion there is no such thing as work life balance. I do not even like the term as I think it is deviously deceptive. The word “balance” creates a false hope that work and life is a 50/50 proposition. Striving for that level of balance can create far too much undo angst.
The solution I have worked out over the years is situational priority management.

I am successful in my work life because I recognize when it is time to turn it on, dig in and bust my butt to enable great results. There are times when this will require 60 hour weeks and 12 hours days and that is okay.

I am successful in my family life because I recognize when it is time to turn work off, get out and bust a move to enable great connections with my wife and teen son. When on vacation, I commit to being fully present with the family resisting the urge to work and by trusting those on my team to make the most of their empowerment.

As a father and a husband, I know that family is forever and if I am to be successful in the most important role God has given me I have to be deliberate with my time both as a parent and as a work professional. Success in one area can indeed lead to success in another.


Yes you can make everything work by managing priorities and by not letting things get out of whack forever. It is okay to have 60+ hour work weeks. The problem comes when the norm becomes all work and no family. 

Remember, jobs are temporary but your family should be permanent! There will be times when you have to sacrifice in one area to have success in another. The key is just to recognize this, be deliberate and live guilt free in each with proper priority management. 

So dump the guilt, forget balance and strive for success instead. It is possible to win at home and at work. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is college required for you to find "it"?

You always have some students who say, ‘I don’t want to go to college; But they don’t realize whatever it is in life, they need to go to college for it.” Martin Copland (no relation to me)

This is a quote I read recently in an article about plans to encourage more students to attend college out of high school. The quote was from a high school guidance counselor.

First as a parent of a high school junior I want to make it very clear that we strongly believe the path to our son’s lifelong career success will pass through college. We are blessed that he already has decided his future career and is working now to ensure he is gaining skills that will help him in college and beyond.

I also understand and recognize that the evidence clearly shows that college graduates over a lifetime will have a higher income and experience many other benefits.

With all of this in mind, I nonetheless could not help but get angry over the quote. I just hate to think of the poor kid with a dream to work with his hands and make a good living as a mechanic, welder or in a manufacturing industry having a dream crushed by such a statement.

College is outrageously expensive and there are many kids that go just because it is the right thing to do and years later find themselves in thousands of dollars of debt. Many graduate with soft degrees that give them no real skills for the marketplace or worse yet due to not knowing what they want they leave no degree at all due to having dropped out of school.(and still thousand of dollars in debt)

Wake up folks!  There are plenty of options for the young person not seeking to go to college. The key is to provide them with support and guidance to find the right fit for who they can be.

Need some ideas?  Here is an article about forty high paying jobs that do not require a degree.

What do you think?  Can someone be a success without going right to college after high school? Is it possible to effectively encourage kids to attend college while also encouraging the non-college bound kid to find a good career? 

Rant over....

Oh and by the way, I am very thankful to live here in Oklahoma where we have extensive help for kids dreaming of College thanks to the Oklahoma Promise program. Our school district is helping to make the process even easier by providing better and free access to the ACT test. We also have one of the nation’s best career tech programs for many non-college options.